Video surfing on YouTube sometimes pays off.
I don’t know exactly how I got to the first item on this commentary (probably from a StarTrek fan page), but I saw a very moving speech by Sir Patrick Stewart at a convention, talking about his activism against domestic violence and how he witnessed that as a kid, and then he talked about his father and how he had recently found out that he probably suffered from PTSD. The video can be seen here: Patrick Stewart Gives Passionate Response to Question At Comicpalooza 2013.
I already respected him a lot as an actor, but this made me value him even more as a human being. It also made me curious, and I found the full video of a TV program that followed his quest for more knowledge – and understanding – about his father, available here: Patrick Stewart – Who Do You Think You Are (UK) S09E03. He found out that his father was a war hero, and someone who indeed had PTSD, and that helped him come to terms with his memories.
And then, in absolute random fashion, my eye was caugth by another video, from the same program, featuring Stephen Fry: Stephen Fry – Who do you think you are.
Stephen’s exploration of his family roots lead him to find out more about his mother’s side, his Jewish ancestry. To make a long story shirt, he manages to trace down the family of both his maternal grandfather, in what used to be part of Hungary and is now Slovenia, and in Vienna, Austria, to find that they were all exterminated during the Holocaust. He also met a concentration camp survivor, who was a nephew (if I remember correctly) of a friend of his grandfather’s, who tells him about the horrors he witnessed.
He ponders how something so trivial as accepting a job in another country, as his grandfather did, could mean surviving one of hte greatest horrors in human history.
I can totally understand his reaction when he finds about this. My family was luckier, my grandfather was already living in Brazil when France was occupied, and his brothers and sisters managed to avoid the nazis. His grandfather, however, and an aunt and cousin (if I’m not mistaken) weren’t so fortunate and died at the hands of the nazis, him at Drancy, awaiting deportation, and them as Aschwitz – same endpoint for Fry’s relatives.
I also cried when I saw their names at the Mémorial de La Shoah, in Paris, although I already knew it. I never met them personally, yet I cried, because it could have been grandpa, it could be my mom… it could be me. And I cried, because it was someone else’s father, mother, siblings, children, whole families…
So, Zakhor. Remember, so it will not happen again.